Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The Helpless Consumer

The Helpless Consumer   

On October 18, 2013, my wife sent an email to Reliance Lifestyle Holdings Ltd to lodge a complaint. The email was duly delivered. There was no response from the Reliance. She sent another email on October 24 in which she added that “If you do not have any explanation to offer, please say so frankly and quickly. I cannot wait indefinitely for your reply.” That email was also duly delivered but there was no reply.

On October 30, 2013, she sent an email to the Customer Service Department, Hamley’s, UK requesting the latter to take up the matter with Reliance Lifestyle Holdings Ltd. In the email she asked Hamley’s weather they would allow Reliance Lifestyle Holdings Ltd to cheat the customers by misusing the reputation of Hamley’s. The email was duly delivered but Hamley’s did not bother to reply. Another email was sent to Hamley’s on November 04. That too was duly delivered but there was complete silence on the part of Hamley’s.

 Having failed to get any response from Reliance Lifestyle Holdings Ltd and Hamley’s, she sent a complaint to the Legal Metrology Department, Maharashtra State, Mumbai. The complaint sent by speed post was delivered on December 2, 2013. There is no response from that department till now.

She had had gone to the shop under the impression that a shop carrying two reputed names would not indulge in any unfair practice. Acting in good faith, she paid the price charged. Many more customers must have paid and must be still paying much more than the MRP.

 It is really very shocking that such ‘reputed’ are openly cheating the customers and just do not bother about complaints. It seems, Hamley’s enjoying very good reputation for quality and customer care in the UK, is behaving in India like many other companies which do not care for customers.

One may ask, why no action was taken not take in the first two cases and why action taken was not pursued in the third case

 Theoretically, in all the three cases complaint could have been lodged with the consumer forum having jurisdiction over a particular case. However, my experience with consumer forum has not been pleasant. Twice I have gone to consumer courts. In one case the amount involved was Rs. 45,000/-. In the second case the amount involved was about Rs. 14,000/-. In each case I got tired after making several visits to the consumer forum, just to get another date. Ultimately I had to engage a lawyer in each case. In the first case I had to make out-of-court settlement because there was no progress for a long time.  I could recover only Rs. 25,000/- less amount paid to lawyer and spent on several personal visits to consumer forum. I won the second case and got the money back but I had to spend more than Rs. 5000/-.

 In each of the three cases mentioned in this write-up, the amount involved does not justify going to a consumer forum and spending money on lawyer’s fee. Moreover, most of the consumer forums are in bad shape, overburdened and often without any judge.

The question is: what should or be done in the type of cases described earlier? The suppliers of goods and services would not care for the complaints. Even the state authorities (other than consumer forums) to whom complaints are sent do not respond. If I start going to consumer forum in each case, I would be spending a lot of money and most of my time fighting cases.

There are organisations which take up consumers’ grievances and provide facilities to register complaints on their website but how many of them would take up cases where the amount involved is small?
In my opinion, an alternative is to have a website where aggrieved consumers can just share their experiences without expecting any relief. At least those who read such experiences would not be cheated by the powerful suppliers of goods and services who do not care for consumers.
Devendra Narain
July 08, 2015
If a reader has any similar experience, please share it the ‘Comments’ box.

The companies have become completely insensitive. They just do not bother. I understand Hamley's read the article but did nothing thereafter. Tata Sky made a telephonic call to enquire what it was about. That's all.
August 23 2015